Covid-19 has led to a flood of new telemedicine (virtual consulting) healthcare solutions, exposing more patients to their benefits and capabilities. More advertising, more awareness, more conversations have introduced telemedicine to more people. This is good for everyone. But the question remains: how do we build patient trust in telehealth so that they will turn to telehealth the next time they need medical care?
Possible candidates for understanding the dynamics might include different patient demographics, or the fact that the solutions on offer are easier to navigate in one practice than another. Below are some recommendations and tips for general healthcare providers looking to incorporate formal telemedicine into their practice.
1. Showcase the benefits of telemedicine and be the conversation starter
I was talking to a healthcare provider and asked: He said he talks to them about it in his room and makes it part of his consultation. He highlights the benefits of telemedicine for patients, including the convenience factor and the fact that they save time and money by not having to drive to their room. He often offers free consultations to take advantage of his solutions, citing the fact that care can be extended, usually on the same day, for less. He also says that while his patients generally perceive telemedicine as a solution, they only begin to trust the service once he introduces them to the subject.
2. Market your service
The problem with telemedicine is letting patients know that their healthcare provider is actually providing telemedicine. It can take quite a while, and I often see providers give up after her month or so, saying the patient isn’t interested. Most of the time they didn’t even know they could use it.
But these same patients continue to use WhatsApp and email, although it’s not necessarily safe.
It is not uncommon for practitioners to have compendiums designed with patient benefit and usage in mind. A great place to include consulting fees. Patients like specifics. It is also common to post information on Facebook, LinkedIn, and joint circulars. One very effective idea I’ve seen in practice is a fridge magnet that contains important information about a telemedicine solution. Patients could attach it to their refrigerator door, and it was not only practical, but served as a constant reminder that their healthcare provider was offering such a service in the first place.
3. Plain talk
This was a great tip for healthcare providers….avoid telemedicine jargon such as “virtual care”. Rather, stick to familiar phrases like ‘book online’. Keeping conversations simple with patients keeps them from being confused or alarmed about what many new ideas and technologies are out there.
4. Facilitate questions
Mentioning telemedicine in the conversation is one way, but then you should encourage the patient to ask questions. So you and your staff should have an answer ready. Providers are also placing materials in rooms and encouraging patients to approach staff about telemedicine. Patients will feel more comfortable about it if they have the opportunity to ask questions about telemedicine, especially from a trusted provider. Make sure the telemedicine solution you choose can provide some form of information sharing and training for her members of staff.
5. Hands-on Demonstration – Show and Tell
I love the idea of demonstrating your solution with staff (and even patients). It shows that practice is involved. You can have a dummy consultation with one of her front desk assistants to show how easy and efficient the consultation is. You can show them that it works. No one is better than you. The more you practice, the more confident you will become.
6. Tools for Telemedicine Transactions
I’ve seen telemedicine initiatives fail because patients thought they needed a desktop computer or top-of-the-line smartphone to access the solution. Reassure your patients that they will likely have all the tools they need and that they will have very little to spend. Let your patients know what they need and probably don’t need to spend more. Perhaps they already have everything they need. It is often perceived that this is complex and requires additional equipment. We can set the record straight by demonstrating how easy it is.
To answer the question as to why some clinics have a thriving telemedicine initiative and others do not, provider intervention and participation play a large role in success. If you install a new solution, sit back and wait to see what happens, it will always fail. Like any good idea, you need to tell people about it. The trick is to put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Think from their point of view when analyzing new solutions. Instill patient trust in your telemedicine solution, and they’ll wonder what you were doing without it.